Rarely in the news these days are there stories of hope and uplifting accomplishment. Here is a recent story that I found today on www.Ohio.com, The Akron Beacon Journal's website in Akron, Ohio [NOTE: the photo above is from their website]. Members of a Girl Scout troop, fifty years or so in age, reunited in a forest of 5,000 seedlings they had planted, along with 1,000 other Girl Scouts, in Hampton Hills Metro Park in Akron in 1968. Imagine planting a tree when you are a ten-year old girl, vaguely aware of the future ahead and not even comprehending what the results might look like one day or even who and where you will be as a person when the trees mature.
I was a Girl Scout in Akron, a few years after this troop, and loved every minute of it (and a Brownie before that). I still have my badges, duffel bag, canteen, camp shorts and "Junior" and "Brownie" books. For a few years in the early 1970s, my mother was a troop leader. We often walked through the Akron Metropolitan park system to earn our hiking sticks or we had interesting field trips, like picking up trash in a park and running a recycling operation. One year my mother was cookie chairman which entailed having cases of Girl Scout cookies delivered to our house where we sorted them out to be delivered by our troop. Back then they were made by Burry Biscuit Company, long out of business, and I think the quality was far superior. [We even had a field trip at one of their cookie factories outside of Akron.]
PHOTO: Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal: December 2006
On a sad note, and why I was on the Ohio.com website in the first place, is that Congressman John F. Seiberling passed away on August 2 at 89. He was the elder statesman of my father's generation of cousins. He was a truly honorable politician--the real deal--and he was "Green" in his outlook and lifestyle before it was even a public notion (for example, he used to ride his bicycle all over Washington, DC when he was in office). It is largely because of his efforts that the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, some 33,000 acres of beautiful farm and river land outside of Akron, is preserved today. He was an historic preservationist as well as a conservationist, and both are noble pursuits in today's world. Whatever one's politics, his life was well-led and earnest.
On a recent trip to Akron with my Cupcake friends, I drove them past our old house off of West Market Street, a thorough- fare that writer Melissa Holbrook Pierson likens to the cord of her childhood. [See The Coast of Akron at the "Cupcake Chronicles" for more on Pierson's great book, The Place You Love is Gone.] There is a large Japanese maple tree in the front yard, its trunk is thick and sinewy. It is an old tree: 46 years this summer. Today it towers over the front of the house and fills the front lawn with its purplish, leafy splendor. The house itself was built after the war, in 1949 I believe, and the landscape had filled in around the neighboring houses enough by the time I was born to make it seem like a neighborhood. A suburb isn't really lived in until it has established plantings, paths and leafy overgrowths between neighboring yards. It was my entire universe as a child and was soon replaced by the woods and fields of New Hampshire.
My parents planted the tree the year I was born and the summer that they bought the house. I have been dreaming about that house again and probably because we have moved from New Hampshire and are (re)settling in Kentucky, despite some loose ends in August around the closing. The last time I made such a move was when we lived in Akron and moved, when I was 11, to New Hampshire.
It is a time of needed and positive change for my family--we're making new roots in our own forest and there is nothing more liberating. Gone (almost) is the big family house with its many associations and assumptions (I call it "Big House Syndrome" when people, and even family members, assume a great deal because you live in a big house: but more about "BHS" in one of my upcoming books). It also was, and is, a lovely home and will now be among the few houses of dreams in my lifetime where I have been fortunate to live or know.
“Let us live here, and work for light..." Vincent Harding
[And speaking of light--and hope--I just found out that today, August 4, is Barack Obama's 47th birthday]